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Britain is at COVID-19 tipping point, health minister says

epaselect epa08666021 A Covid-19 social distancing public notice on a street in Birmingham, Britain, 13 September 2020. New Covid-19 lockdown measures banning people from mixing in homes and gardens are to come into law in Birmingham from 15 September. The city has the third-highest rate of infections in England. The British government is facing pressure to act following an increase in new cases across the UK over recent days. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN

LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Britain is at a tipping point on COVID-19, health minister Matt Hancock said on Sunday, warning that a second national lockdown could be imposed if people don't follow government rules designed to stop the spread of the virus.

By William James

COVID-19 cases have risen sharply in recent weeks, with 3,899 reported on Sunday, and London’s mayor demanded swift action to prevent its spread in the capital.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called it a second wave and stricter lockdown measures have been introduced in areas across the country, with more expected.

“The nation faces a tipping point and we have a choice,” Hancock told Sky News. “The choice is either that everybody follows the rules … or we will have to take more measures.”

Hancock later told the BBC that a second national lockdown was possible option.

“I don’t rule it out, I don’t want to see it,” he said.

Johnson announced fines of up to 10,000 pounds ($12,900) on Saturday for people in England who break new rules requiring them to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19.

In addition to tighter rules on social gatherings across the country, several cities and regions in Britain have had ‘local lockdowns’ imposed, limiting even more strictly when, where and how many people can meet up socially.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan wants fast action to halt the worsening spread in London, a spokeswoman for Khan said ahead of meetings on Monday when authorities in the capital will formulate recommended next steps for ministerial approval.

“The mayor wants fast action as we cannot risk a delay, as happened in March,” the spokeswoman said. “It is better for both health and business to move too early than too late.”

Hancock was asked on Times Radio about the possibility of Londoners being told to work from home later this week, and said: “Well, I wouldn’t rule it out.” (Reporting by William James; Editing by Toby Chopra and Gareth Jones)

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